Six Nations: Wales prepared for Italy whatever the outcome of Sergio Parisse hearing

The Azzurri captain could be suspended for the remainder of the Six Nations

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The Independent Online

Wales insist they will be prepared for Saturday’s crunch game in Rome, despite the current uncertainty over the availability of Italy’s talisman Sergio Parisse.

The Azzurri captain is set to face a disciplinary hearing in Paris later today after he was sent off last weekend playing for his club Stade Francais against Bordeaux-Begles.

Parisse was dismissed for allegedly insulting match referee Laurent Cardona, and he could receive a minimum six-week ban, which would rule him out of Italy's remaining RBS 6 Nations games this season against Wales, England and Ireland.

The 31-year-old was a key performer during the 23-18 victory against France earlier this month and has been a vital part of Italian teams since making his Six Nations debut in 2005.

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley said: "We are preparing the same, regardless of whether Sergio Parisse is going to be playing.

"We cannot control that decision. Parisse is world class and if he does not play it will have an impact, but we have to concentrate on putting our own house in order."

"He's world class, there is no doubting that, and Italy rely on him heavily, as would any team he is in," added Wales captain Ryan Jones.

"He is a great athlete and he is very good in and around the set-piece. He's pretty special. We are preparing as though he is playing, and we will cross that bridge on Thursday."

Jones, meanwhile, is savouring the prospect of seeing Sam Warburton back in Test match action on Saturday.

Jones is set to lead his country for the 31st time, keeping the job despite Warburton - Wales' 2011 World Cup skipper and a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-winning captain last year – being back to full fitness following a shoulder injury.

Wales beat France 16-6 last time out in Warburton’s absence, as Jones led the team to a memorable triumph which resulted in Howley naming an unchanged starting XV, with Warburton on bench duty this weekend.

Jones, though, is very much a reluctant hero, despite often being Wales' go-to man during a 71-cap international career that began more than eight years ago.

"The captaincy is only a title," the 31-year-old Ospreys star said.

"I am happy to be involved, and I am enjoying it. If the captaincy comes along, great, but it is just about contributing to the team and helping it be successful.

"Sam is a mate of mine, and I have always tried to be there for him since he took over as captain. We chat over various things.

"Sam is very much his own man. You have to be true and honest to yourself, and if you are not then you are found out pretty quickly. Rugby is ruthless.

"It is still Sam's team, if you like, and we want him to be confident and playing well."